Today, the House Education and Labor Committee begins markup on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which has strong bipartisan backing in Congress. The EFCA would make it easier for workers to form a union. Under the current law, “even when a majority of workers ask for union representation, their employers can force them to undergo an election process” administered by the Bush administration’s “anti-worker” National Labor Relations Board.
Roll Call reports today, “Deep-pocketed corporate lobbying groups have joined together to defeat” the EFCA. Speaking before a business lobby group this morning, Vice President Cheney announced that Bush will veto the EFCA legislation. Watch it:
The current union organization system is tilted against America’s workers. Each year, over 20,000 U.S. workers are illegally fired, demoted, laid off, suspended without pay, or denied work by their employers as a result of union activity. Under the Bush administration, American workers have seen union levels — and their wages — steadily drop:
— In Oct. 2006, Bush’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) — “easily the most anti-worker labor board in history” — issued a decision that will deny the right to organize to as many as 8 million workers in 200 occupations.
— In 2000, 13.5 percent of all wage and salary workers were unionized. In 2006, just 12 percent of workers were in unions.
— The portion of private sector workers covered by union protections has fallen steadily from 23.2 percent in 1979 to 8.5 percent in 2005.
— In 2004, 92 percent of employers forced workers to attend “mandatory captive audience meetings” where workers often had to “listen to hours of anti-union presentations by corporate representatives.”
— “The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003″ — after factoring in inflation — even though average worker productivity “has risen steadily over the same period.”
Unions ensure a better standard of living for working Americans. Workers represented by unions earn 28 percent more than nonunion workers and are 62 percent more likely to have medical insurance through their jobs. Contact your lawmakers and tell them to support the Employee Free Choice Act.
America is also a country that takes very seriously the right of men and women to work and to organize under the law. The American labor movement has a proud history and has long reflected a basic principle of our democracy: fair elections, as decided by secret ballots. This principle will be put to a test in Congress this year. It’s important for everyone in the debate to remember that secret ballots protect workers from intimidation and ensure the integrity of the process.
Beyond that, if workers do decide to form a union, they and their employers should be able to negotiate without having terms forced on them. Our Administration rejects any attempt to short-circuit the rights of workers. We will defend their right to vote yes or no by secret ballot and their right to fair bargaining. H.R. 800 violates these principles, and if it is sent to the President, he will veto the bill.